A number of things will help keep these little critters away from you. Wood smoke works fine, but only if you’re sat in a cloud of it… watering eyes, a running nose and choking isn’t my idea of relaxation. There’s no shortage of wearable mosquito netting, hats and so on, but they’re not for me. I want to smoke a fag, eat and have a drink without navigating a netting yashmak. A decent repellent is therefore a necessity.
So what are your choices?
Deet based Repellents
Deet is an insecticide applied to the skin. Scary? Only if you’re somewhat gullible and follow Facebook wall posts, believing them to be scientific. Deet is generally quite safe to use, has been subject to numerous studies, and while reactions are possible, they’re extremely rare. Peanuts are more dangerous. A study in Thailand into the effects of Deet on babies born to pregnant women found no health risks (you can see the study here). Doctors recommend the use of Deet as it’s highly effective repellent. You’ll find one or two studies which raise concerns that a small number of deaths or neurological reactions may be due to Deet, but this has to be weighed against the approximate 200,000,000 people using Deet each year and 8billion applications since the 1950s.
In 2014, the US Environment Protection Agency conducted a review of Deet use and health risks. It found that a third of the population of the United States use products containing Deet, and concluded it does not present a health risk to adults or children.
A reaction is possible, but very rare. Use it sensibly:
- Do not spray or apply to cuts;
- Do not spray on the hands or around the mouths of young children;
- Do not spray in enclosed areas and avoid inhaling;
- Keep the bottle out of reach of young children;
- Do not spray on plastic or synthetic material (as it can melt it… this includes your hammock, bug netting and tarp!!!).
Products using Deet include Jungle Juice, a very popular midge repellent. The one linked contains 50% Deet.
Avon Skin So Soft
An alternative to Deet is Avon’s Skin So Soft product. I know many locals in Cumbria who swear by it as a midge repellent (and the midges here are evil, similar to the ones found in Scotland which can creep through all bar noseeum netting).
A study has compared Deet (in concentrations of 95%) with Skin So Soft Bath Oil and a placebo. Skin So Soft did remarkably well, being 85% as effective as a highly concentrated Deet solution which was more concentrated than many commercially available insect repellents. It also makes your skin soft!
Now a word of caution as not all Skin So Soft products are the same or contain the same ingredients. To have worth as an insect repellent, you want ones which include citronella or picaridin (hence some people say Skin So Soft works wonders, while others get bitten). Picaridin is a synthetic compound
Repellents in Nature
If you’re walking in Scotland or other parts of the British Isles, watch out for the plant bog myrtle (a traditional midge repellent). It’s a shrub which can grow up to two metres tall. Bog myrtle can also be bought as an essential oil. Be aware that it can cause skin irritation for some people.
Remember, just because something is a ‘natural’ repellent rather than a man made one doesn’t mean it’s safe. They’re all chemically based, and arsenic is a natural substance found in apple seeds!